Big Ben: Daniel Jones and Brian Daboll Lead Giants to Wild Card Victory, On to Philly

BEN-WHITNEY, Meet-The-Matts, Daniel Jones, Kirk Cousins, Wink Martindale, Giants, NFL Playoffs, NFL, Google Alerts, #GoogleAlerts

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – The Giants pulled off their first playoff victory since they beat the Patriots in Super Bowl 46 about 11 years ago. Eleven years isn’t that long, but it’s been a pretty brutal decade plus for the G-men. Of the men most responsible for this rebirth, Brian Daboll deserves a big share of the credit. He has reminded us what a well-coached and prepared team looks like. And it’s hard to say enough about Daniel Jones, the understated QB, who played a nearly flawless game and has put himself in position for a big pay day. Let’s dig in.

First Impressions

The Giants’ defense didn’t look like it was going to put up much of a fight after the first Minnesota drive. Was Wink playing rope-a-dope? It’s hard to understand why offensive player of the year candidate, Justin Jefferson, had three catches for 25 yards on the opening drive and then only four catches for 22 yards the rest of the game. The return of Giants’ top corner Adoreé Jackson surely helped, but where were the bubble screens that were so successful in their first meeting?

Counterpunching

Where’d this guy go?

Like Rocky coming out of the corner and cutting the Russian, the Giants responded with two consecutive counterpunches. It only took them five and four plays to score two TDs on their first two possessions. Giants receivers were running freely in the secondary and Jones was firing darts.

A Few Big Breaks

In between the Giants’ TD drives, a Vikings’ drive stalled out on a third and inches. Instead of just sneaking it, like they did on their TD, or giving it to Cook, who looked spry early, the Vikings tried a trick play. The Philly-special-esque play, with Jefferson throwing it back to Cousins for a three yard loss, was a gift. This play sure seemed like a young playoff-virgin, offensive minded coach getting caught up in the moment. Thank you Kevin O’Connell.

When the Vikings were driving late in the third down by three, they were faced with a fourth and inches. This time they wised up and ran a successful sneak, but tackle Christian Darrisaw’s slight flinch was flagged. The Vikings settled for a tying field goal.

The Winning Drive

Jones responded with an Eli-esque, 12 play TD drive. The drive was almost all Jones, with five completions for 58 yards and two runs for seven yards. The only exception was the final play. Saquon Barkley, who only had nine total carries in the Giants’ pass-heavy game plan, carried former teammate and Giants’ draft pick Dalvin Tomlinson into the end zone. Ask your doctor if squatting 650 pounds is right for you. It was great to see Saquon, maligned by injuries and “wrong pick” criticisms,” come up big in a key moment.

Finishing it Off

The Giants forced a huge three and out on the next drive, highlighted by Darnay Holmes stuffing a screen to Cook and Kayvon Thibodeux holding Hockenson to a three yard gain. That would come very close to being the Vikings only drive in the fourth quarter.

When Saquon was stuffed on a third and one on the Giants’ own 45 on the next drive, the Giants amazingly went for it on fourth down. This was something few coaches would have even considered in the NFL days of yore, but Daboll wanted to end the game without giving the ball back. Daboll set this kind of “we’re here to win” tone in the first game of the season by going for two late in the game against the Titans. Here, Jones picked up the first down on a sneak and the Giants were in position to put it away.

Hodgins has been quite the find.

It looked like they were about to do just that when Darius Slayton broke free on a crossing route, as Giants‘ receivers had been doing all day. Slayton had plenty of daylight in front of him to pick up the first down, and Jones put it right in his breadbasket. Somehow the ball slipped through his fingers. Uh oh.

It would have been fitting for the Giants to put away the game on the arm of Jones and a wide open receiver on a crossing route. But it was not to be and the drop gave the Vikings one more chance.

After a questionable roughing the passer call on Dexter Lawrence and two completions to Hockenson, the Vikings were in business. The drop sure looked destined to be turning point in the wrong direction and I found myself wondering if the Vikings would go for two after they scored.

But on a third and eight, rookie Cor’dale Flott had a huge pass breakup on a pass to K.J. Osbourne. Then Cousins inexplicable threw a four-yard pass on a 4th and eight. Xavier McKinney wrapped him up and it was over. John Madden surely rolled over in his grave after that play. “I don’t  get it, it’s third and one and you throw a none yard pass.” Rest in power.

The Defense

This guy put together a great plan to stop Jefferson.

The Vikings came into the game with injury problems on the O-line, so I expected the Giants’ pass rush to be a big factor. It didn’t happen, as the Giants had no sacks in the game.

But like so many other times this year, the defense looked shaky and vulnerable early, but made key stops late. It certainly helped that the unit was fully intact, with the return of Jackson, for the first time all season. That may not be the case against the Eagles, as Azeez Olujari went down in the first half and did not return.

Die Eagles, Die

I know I shouldn’t get too hyped about a win against a team with such a mediocre defense. But it’s hard. The Giants’ receivers surely won’t be able to again run freely and carelessly through the Eagles secondary like my dog Chief chasing a tennis ball across a field. They’ll have to grind this one out.

But even if they lay a Giant egg in Philly, it will still be a smashing success of a season. The Giants have a ton of cap room and the future sure looks brighter than it did a year ago.

And I can’t help feeling like they can make a game of it.

A Few Thoughts on Danny Dimes Dollars

Pay the man

I said many times that the worst thing that could happen to the Giants this year was for Jones to have a decent season, but not good enough to prove he was “the guy” or bad enough to get them a top draft pick to land a top QB. And for a while, it looked like that was happening. But Jones has put this narrative to rest with recent strong play. With competent coaching and a solid supporting cast, the Giants can win with him.

*Management Insert:

Turnovers (especially fumbles) used to be his biggest problem. Well in 2022 he had three lost fumbles and five interceptions. Just for context, Patrick Mahomes threw 11 interceptions this year, Josh Allen had 16, and Tom Brady had nine.

Imagine if Joe Judge did a little better down the home stretch last year and they gave him one more year. I just shuddered with horror. Surely Jones would have been mediocre and likely would have ended up elsewhere next year. Sometimes succeeding as a QB depends almost completely on where you end up.

Anyway, I know where I’ll be on Saturday night. Let’s gooooooooo G-men.

That’s my time. Come back tomorrow for Angry Ward, who called the Vikings’ first round playoff exit a long time ago. Please comment below and follow us on Twitter at @benwhit8 & @MeetTheMatts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts. And we’re on Instagram, too – @MeetTheMatts

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About Ben Whitney 343 Articles
Ben Whitney comes from journalistic stock. Aside from his brothers, rumor has that his great-great grandfather was the youngest brother of Eli Whitney and covered the earliest "rounders" games. Big Ben is also another New York Rugby Club player/pal of Different Matt, Short Matt and Junoir Blaber. He likes film noir discussions, has twin girls and took up ice hockey after retiring from rugby.